On the role of the reticular formation in vocal pattern generation

Behav Brain Res. 2007 Sep 4;182(2):308-14. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2006.11.027. Epub 2006 Dec 14.


This review is an attempt to localize the brain region responsible for pattern generation of species-specific vocalizations. A catalogue is set up, listing the criteria considered to be essential for a vocal pattern generator. According to this catalogue, a vocal pattern generator should show vocalization-correlated activity, starting before vocal onset and reflecting specific acoustic features of the vocalization. Artificial activation by electrical or glutamatergic stimulation should produce artificially sounding vocalization. Lesioning is expected to have an inhibitory or deteriorating effect on vocalization. Anatomically, a vocal pattern generator can be assumed to have direct or, at least, oligosynaptic connections with all the motoneuron pools involved in phonation. A survey of the literature reveals that the only area meeting all these criteria is a region, reaching from the parvocellular pontine reticular formation just above the superior olive through the lateral reticular formation around the facial nucleus and nucleus ambiguus down to the caudalmost medulla, including the dorsal and ventral reticular nuclei and nucleus retroambiguus. It is proposed that vocal pattern generation takes place within this whole region.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Action Potentials / radiation effects
  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Neurons / radiation effects
  • Reticular Formation / cytology
  • Reticular Formation / physiology*
  • Reticular Formation / radiation effects
  • Vocalization, Animal* / radiation effects